Athletics: Christie leaves Lewis trailing in his wake: British Olympic gold medallist confirms his status for Stuttgart as the world champion trails behind in third place

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CARL LEWIS has talked a good race all week. Last night, Linford Christie ran it.

Dressed in a plain white leotard, garbed in the deep, almost fanatical concentration which took him to the Olympic title last summer, Christie duly won his high-profile dash-for-cash, the pounds 200,000 challenge 100 metres race with the world champion.

His time of 10.08sec on a chilly Gateshead evening was impressive; but the fact of his victory over a legendary opponent who had beaten him on 12 of their previous 13 meetings gives him cause to regard himself as the best sprinter in the world.

As Christie, who has kept his own counsel all week, doggedly pointed out, that remains to be proved at the World Championships in Stuttgart which start in two weeks' time. And no, this race did not demonstrate that Christie would have beaten Lewis at Barcelona last year had the American qualified for the individual 100m.

But the look on the Briton's face as he crossed the line left no one in doubt how much this victory meant. 'It was just relief,' he said. 'There was a lot of pressure.'

Lewis, after getting a poor start, was not even second. That position was filled by another American, Jon Drummond. Christie's start was good; Drummond's better. And it was not until 15 metres from the line that the Olympic champion drew ahead, as everyone in a fervent crowd seemed to feel he must.

Afterwards, Drummond thanked Christie and Lewis for inviting him to their party. He nearly pooped it. But it was left to Christie to lap the track amid a desperate struggle of photographers before embracing his father in front of the main stand.

'I'm not going to make any excuses, because it's easy to do that,' Lewis said after finishing third in 10.22sec. 'It was a great race for the sport, but now it is over and we look to the next stage.'

The next stage for these two might yet be Zurich on Wednesday. Lewis is running the 100m, Christie the 200. But Lewis's manager, Joe Douglas, has said he would not be averse to Christie doing the 100m too, and Christie himself did not rule it out last night. 'Andy Norman arranges my races,' was his response.

Christie responded pugnaciously to reports of slighting comments by some US sprinters. 'They can disrespect me as much as they want, but I can look in the cabinet and I've got what they want. I'm the man, and they are the wannabes.' For now, he is, and they are.

But Andre Cason, who had to pull out of a meeting with Christie at Oslo earlier this month because of illness, looks like having an early opportunity to change that. Cason and Christie are due to meet over 100m in Cologne tomorrow.

The justice of two men receiving pounds 100,000 each for 10 seconds' running has been questioned in a week when a report has indicated that Britain's Olympic athletes are woefully underfunded.

But could such money have been generated by any other athletes? The answer has to be no. Last night's 100m challenge was an example of market forces at work. It was the prospect of getting these two athletes that persuaded ITV, Today newspaper and Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council to provide the financing. No one questions the need to provide more funding at the base of the sport; but this consciousness-raising event did not take money from more deserving sources.

That is the view of at least one deserving source who will make personal sacrifices to represent Britain at next month's World Championships. Gary Cadogan, the 400m hurdles AAA champion, was not able to be at last night's meeting because of his work commitments as an advertising rep with the Kilburn Times. 'Top golfers and boxers get paid very well,' he said, 'and I think if you are the No 1 in any sport you should get the top rate. Linford and Carl are top performers, so good luck to them.'

All 13,000 tickets at the stadium were sold out before the announcement of the Lewis-Christie race. The extra capacity of around 2,000 places created by two temporary stands erected this week was also promptly filled.

But the crucial statistic will have been the number of new viewers who were persuaded to switch on to see what this Lewis-Christie business amounted to. ITV is to re-negotiate its athletics contract next March. Results, Sporting Digest,

Joyce's gold medal, page 51

(Photograph omitted)